WTS Metro Phoenix Volunteer Spotlight: Marinela Papa-Konomi

April is National Volunteer Month, making it the perfect time to highlight our chapter’s many volunteers. Our organization would not be the successful group that it is without the many volunteers who put time and energy into the Metro Phoenix Chapter. Marinela Papa-Konomi is an Environmental Planner with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and volunteers with our chapter's Scholarship Committee, which is committed to provide scholarships for people studying for careers in the transportation industry.

What motivated you to volunteer and assist the WTS Phoenix Chapter Scholarship committee?

In my view, education is the most powerful tool that can serve the transportation industry. It can impact the nation and change the world. As a lifelong student of continuous learning, I am privileged to bring the benefits of my life experience, diverse outlook, knowledge, and my human touch to the WTS Phoenix Chapter Scholarship Committee. While an algorithm can rank candidates by determining who has the best grades, it cannot measure the drive or desire, the willingness and commitment to a transportation-related course work and profession.

Why is it important to you to volunteer your time to WTS?

More than 12 years ago my career as an environmental professional became an integral part of the transportation industry. Because of that change I was fortunate to get involved with the WTS organization, which has allowed me to foster new relationships and connect with bright and strong women who are dedicated to their profession and to supporting each-other. I look forward to all WTS engagements.  

Tell us a bit about what the Scholarship committee does?

The Scholarship Committee works with the treasurer, golf tournament chair, our partner organizations, and the board to identify fundraising opportunities for scholarships and determine the amount that can be awarded each year for each scholarship.  We also coordinate with the WTS International Foundation to ensure all our scholarship applications are clear, meet the requirements of the national scholarships, and are designed to draw the best applicants.

As a committee, we advertise the scholarship applications to schools, youth organizations, and other contacts within our networks. We score the applications we receive based on a pre-set rubric, then meet as a committee to compare scoring results and determine the most recommended recipient of each scholarship. We strive for fairness, objectivity, and nondiscrimination within the Scholarship Committee selection process. We submit our local scholarship recipients’ applications on to the international foundation for consideration for the international scholarships.

How competitive are the WTS Phoenix Chapter scholarships?

Each year the scholarship committee receives several outstanding applications for each our scholarships. In the past, we have received as many as 15 qualified applications for each scholarship. We always work collaboratively as a committee to hash out who we think is the best candidate for each scholarship. I would say these scholarships are on the more competitive side compared to other scholarships I’ve heard of. However, if a student can convey that they are truly passionate about transportation and are actively aiming their career path and education towards that goal they will have a very good chance of being recognized by our organization as a scholarship recipient.

What are some things you’d recommend that young people wanting to get into the transportation industry do today?

The transportation industry is very diverse, encompasses all modes of transport, and has a place for everyone. It is an exciting career and very rewarding. At any given time when you are going somewhere, you are utilizing one or more aspects of the transportation industry, a vehicle, the road, the traffic lights , the pavement markers, the road signs, the road name, a bridge crossing a river, etc. Any of these transportation features can lead you towards a professional career in the industry. Apply for an internship in your local transportation department, the experience will be very rewarding. A day in a transportation professional’s life is never dull, there’s always challenges and excitements!